New Thursday, new Say Uncle part!
Let’s see how our favorite teenage babysitter does with the situation of his niece running away in the night.
Catch up below:
Aaaand enjoy the new part!
The timing of that text really made me think Henry might have secret cameras up around this place.
No, Henry. No everything is not going okay.
But what was I supposed to do? Text back that I’d just gone and stupidly lost his kid?
I just fumbled my phone back in my pocket, feeling sick to my stomach.
She was gone. Charlotte had just . . .
I ran over to the window, gripping the sill as I stuck my head out and stared off into the night. Nothing. No little girls illuminated by the porchlights and streetlights around the neighborhood from anywhere I could see. And I had a pretty good view from that window.
I swore, pulling back from the window and nervously tugging a hand through my hair.
Where could she have gone? How had . . . had a babygate been the only thing keeping her from getting out? She wasn’t two. She could have moved that herself, easily.
I mean that was my logic in taking it down.
I was perfectly justified. I couldn’t have predicted something like this. This was totally unreasonable and one-hundred percent out of the range of “normal” for the job of babysitting . . .
But however unfair it was . . . my pointing that out wasn’t gonna make Charley appear back in the room.
I swore again. Stronger words this time. Pretty much all other kids were asleep anyway, it wasn’t like they were gonna hear it . . .
Rudy appeared in the door at the words like some genie summoned from a magical lamp. “What does that mean?”
Oh great, I’d just taught my sheltered little nephew a new vocabulary word. I groaned. “Nothing you need to know about.”
“See, I said . . .” Rudy trailed off and blinked through his glasses at the empty bed behind me. And then over at the open window. His mouth formed into an O shape and he dropped the UFO controller to run over to peer out just like I’d been doing a few seconds earlier. “Charley actually got out? Whoa . . .”
I exploded. “Yes she got out! Because none of you nitwits told me about those stupid baby gates or the fact that your sister had it in her head to run away before it already happened and . . .”I gestured around and spluttered for a few more seconds before just dropping my head into my hands. Which hurt more than I expected because of my fresh bruises from getting rammed in the head by a UFO.
This evening was quickly turning into a nightmare.
I took a few seconds before trying to speak to Rudy again. And when I did, it was through gritted teeth. I brought my hand down just enough that I could look at him through the cracks in my fingers.
“How long has Charlotte been doing this?”
Rudy, apparently not bothered by my panic or his sister’s sudden disappearance, was pulling a few things out of Charley’s drawers. He shrugged, squinting for a few seconds at a piece of paper he’d snagged. “She started doing it like two years ago?” He looked up at me. “There are adventures and wonderful creatures out in the world and she wants to explore and see them.”
He said that fairy-tale-ish line so flatly it sounded like he was reading it out of a dictionary.
I just stared at him. “So she thinks that . . .” I closed my eyes for a second and pulled my hand off my face, restarting my question. Understanding the logic in my maniac niece’s brain wasn’t the top priority that second. “Where does she usually go?”
A second of silence. Rudy continued looking at his paper.
I clenched and unclenched my hands, taking a slow breath. “What do your parents usually do when this happens?” My voice pitched higher than normal, nearly squeaking with the effort to stay calm.
Rudy shrugged again, folding the paper and sticking it in his back pocket. “Freak out?”
“Yeah, I can check that off the list, thanks. What did they do after that? Where do they look for her? I mean, she’s not even in view of the house . . . How long does she stay away?”
“First time she was gone for like a day. And then she kept trying to get out on Tuesdays and mom and dad would catch her going out when they figured it and dad put the gates up. I wouldn’t usually go very far if I was helping to look.” He gave me an aloof look. “I thought you’d leave the gates where they were. They were keeping her in.”
“Maybe because no one bothered to tell me what they were for?”I snapped. The blood pounding in my head made the forming bruises on my face throb even worse.
Rudy adjusted his glasses and turned around slowly. The fact that this was the calmest I’d seen him – at the moment when I was just about losing my mind here – was giving me a very strong temptation to break my streak as a nonviolent babysitter.
He calmly looked up at me. “Sometimes she hides in those neighbors’ garage.” He pointed over his left shoulder towards our garage. “And I think she wanders around the streets and sometimes goes to the gas station. Drive around and you’ll probably find her. Dad usually would.”
I blew out my breath and pushed past Rudy to the door. If “usually” was as good as it got, I was willing to take that chance. Henry was gonna kill me if I didn’t get Charlotte back.
I went over to the neighbors’ house before revving up my car to start off on the search. Starting closest to home made sense, if she’d hid in their garage before and there was a chance she had again . . . that was the right place to start. This was the safety of my niece that we were talking about. It excused late-night door knocking.
All that was mainly what I was telling myself as I stood by the front door of the neighbors’ house Rudy had pointed me towards. While I psyched myself up to bring my hand to the knocker. Staring straight at the name on the door plaque.
I’d already checked. Their garage was locked, so I wasn’t getting in there.
Good grief, of all the houses to disturb late at night . . .
No other choice really, buddy.
I took in a deep breath, blew it out, then brought up my hand and knocked hard. I waited a bit and knocked again, just to make sure they’d heard. After a few seconds of silence, I heard some distant bumping around and muttering, getting closer to the door.
I unconsciously straightened my back, a sick feeling forming in the pit of my stomach. What was I even gonna say here? I’d lost a small child. There was literally no way to make this sound good.
The thumping stopped and clear, angry footsteps came up to the other side of the door. A lock clicked, and it swung open. Sure enough, I was again standing face to face with Alice. Her dark eyes were squinted as she looked me over, partly in a glare and partly because she’d probably been asleep before I knocked. Her frizzy hair was smashed down more on one side like she’d just been lying on it. For a while.
Shoot, I didn’t even look at the clock before coming over. What time is it?
“It’s eleven-thirty at night,” Alice growled out, folding her arms to pull her baggy hoodie closer around her. “Who do you think you are, Wee Willie Winkie?”
I opened my mouth. “Yeah, sorry about that. I just had to . . .”
“And what the freak happened to your face?” her nose wrinkled up. “It looks like you started hitting yourself instead of those drums.”
Right. I’d forgotten about the fact that my face still had a good amount of blood covering it.
I’d had my explanation for my Charley-search more or less planned out. This, not so much. I stammered, tripping over my words and self consciously rubbing at my sore face. “That . . . my nephew had a . . . thing. UFO he was flying around and I . . . Okay, not important. I came over here for something else.” I cleared my throat and straightened up again. “My niece ran away. My nephew says she likes to hide in your garage. Can I take a look inside?” I pronounced my words as clearly as possible, since I knew personally how hard it was carrying on half-asleep conversations.
Alice’s eyes narrowed further until she was looking at me through nothing more than slits. “Your what likes to hide in our garage?”
I raised my eyebrows. “My niece? Henry’s kid? Charlotte?”
“About yea tall,” I put out a hand, “Long brown hair and eyes that look right into your soul? Doesn’t talk much?”
“Dude, if there was a kid who likes to hide in our garage I had no idea. How’d she even plan on getting in?”
“Well she climbed out her flippin’ window to escape the house, how do I know how she usually gets in?” I dropped my hand, looking over to the garage. “There’s like a window into the garage or something, right? I just need to . . .”
“No, seriously,” Alice unfolded her arms so she could prop her hands on her hips. “I literally never knew that any of those kids had a habit of running away. Much less to our garage. Which they wouldn’t be able to get into in the first place.” She raised an eyebrow, tilting her head. “This some sorta stupid prank?”
I raised my hands defensively. “What? No, I . . . Rudy said . . .”
But as the facts slowly clicked into place in my mind. And that Rudy was my main source of information . . .
I looked back towards the MacQuoid house just in time to see Rudy’s blond head disappear from the window frame.
That little twit had set me up. Since he’d seen Alice the other night and seen . . .
How had I not seen that coming? Probably got a concussion from his stupid spaceship or something. And all that was just time wasted I could have been going after Charley. Who knew where she could be now?I clenched my teeth and muttered under my breath.
Alice took another step forward, both eyebrows raised now. “Oh ho, what was that now?”
“Nothing just . . .” I put down my hands and backed up, moving off the porch. I shook my head. “Wrong house. Got the wrong . . . directions. Sorry about that.” Oh the effort that took to keep from directing how ticked off I was towards her. I gave what I hoped was a casual and apologetic wave as I turned to head over back to my car.
Nice attempt, but by my last look at her face and the way I could feel her glare burning through the back of my shirt, it probably didn’t cool her off much. Nothing got between this girl and her sleep, apparently. And this was my second night in a row of doing so.
Thanks, Rudy. You’re a comic genius, I’m sure you laughed your little behind off watching me get chewed out by the pretty girl nextdoor.
I shoved my hands in my pockets to dig for my keys as I got to the side of my car, still gritting my teeth together.
The sick feeling in my stomach grew as I got into the driver’s seat and jammed in the keys. A worried feeling.
It was dark. Almost midnight. In a fairly big city which had its fair share of crime.
And there was a little girl out there I was supposed to be watching out for. All by herself.
I gripped onto the steering wheel and swallowed. She’d better be okay.
I lost track of how long I’d been zigzagging my way through the streets. Driving slowly with my window rolled down, calling outside for Charley in a stage whisper. The neighborhood wasn’t even set up in regular blocks so I got lost quite a few times.
Still. No matter how much I called or looked or flashed my lights, no hoodied little girls showed up.
The only people I saw on the streets were . . . well . . . let’s just say less than ideal company for little girls and it didn’t reassure me. I was nearly giving myself a stomachache with all the worrying.
She was nowhere.
For all I knew, I had some mutant for a niece and she’d turned invisible or teleported to China.
Time ticked by. I expanded my search area, going onto more back roads an even out closer towards town. My headlights swung low across the empty road, lighting up nothing but a few road signs, other houses and stupid trees.
“Charley? Charlotte? Come on you . . .” my voice cracked, nearly gone from all the calling I’d been doing.
This was ridiculous. Maybe I should just call the police or something.
And then she’d get in trouble for being a minor running away and I’d be in trouble for being the person who was supposed to be watching her and Henry was definitely gonna hear about that . . .
I groaned and dropped my head against the steering wheel, letting the car drift along the flat road to a stop.
My head was pounding. My eyes felt sandy and one was partly swollen shut by now.
And I was just. so. tired.
Rudy said she always came back within the day, right? Do I really have to keep looking?
I still had to get up early tomorrow and get the other kids to school. If she’d run away before she probably knew how to look after herself, right?
She’d be back.
Possibly after befriending some meth-head and getting addicted to drugs and God knows what else . . .
Working up the pitiful amount of willpower I had left, I lifted my head back up off the steering wheel and started to drive again. Back out towards the main road to town.
There’s an ice cream shop down the road there, maybe she . . .
I got my bleary eyes to focus on the road just in time to see someone coming for my car. The jolt as I smashed on the brakes only worsened my headache. I clenched my teeth, gripping the steering wheel and squinting a death glare towards the person on the road. Still walking toward me, unfazed.
“Who the . . .?”
A backpack slung over one shoulder and a jar of gummy bears under the other, her light up shoes flashing tiny red lights. She looked up into my headlights and frowned, shielding her eyes with one hand. Looking at my car like Iwas the one who shouldn’t be out this late.
I never knew I could feel such a rush of relief and murderous rage at the same time.
I yanked my door open and stormed out towards her, my headache spiking into my skull and worsening my mood with each step. “Charlotte! You . . .” I sputtered, choking on my words as I reached her.
She stood there, blinking up at me and still frowning.
“What the . . . what were you doing . . .? How . . .? Why would . . .?”
I don’t know what saintly impulse even kept me from shouting out every cuss word I knew instead of swallowing them back. Maybe my worn out voice had something to do with it. But after a few seconds I found myself just standing there and making spastic gestures and just staring at Charley while I searched for words.
She didn’t blink, staring back at me with an almost accusing look.
It was absolutely silent except for the low sputtering of my motor in the background. And those stupid cicadas who couldn’t give anyone below the state of Kansas a moment of privacy.
I dropped my hands in surrender, forcing myself to take a deep breath.
Charley took a gummy bear out of her jar, examined it and popped it in her mouth, then went back to glaring at me.
I put a hand on one of her shoulders, ignoring the way she stiffened at my touch as I steered her to the passenger side. “Back to the car. We’re going home and you . . . you . . .” my voice cracked horribly and I stopped, looking her in the face as seriously as I could with one eye swollen partway shut. “You are never gonna pull something like this on me again, okay?”
She understood what I said. I swear, the way she looked at me, she understood that and more. But she still didn’t say anything. Didn’t shake her head. Didn’t nod. Just opened the door and got in, slamming it after her.
I got into the driver’s side a few seconds after and gave her another look as I put the car into gear. “Okay? Charley, you hear me?”
Charley glanced at me again, shrugged, and fixed her gaze on the glowing blue numbers of my radio. Her eyebrows went up and for a second, I almost thought she could be attempting a smile. Then it was gone and she leaned back in her seat.
I looked at the time as she did.
I blinked a few times, wondering if I was seeing things. Seriously, the last time I looked at the clock, it was like one thirty. Which was late. But not like . . . that late . . .
Charley cleared her throat, thoughtfully licked the tip of one of her fingers, then held it up in the air as she looked at me. A smug look on her face that sent her message loud and clear without words.
Charlotte – 1
Uncle Micah – 0
Even feeling like the sleep-deprived husk I was at the second, I still felt all the anger and annoyance coming to a boil inside of me. “Oh it’s a game is it? Is that it?” I pointed at her, leaning over the glove compartment so I could get closer. “Listen you little punk. It’s not one you’re going to win. I’m the babysitter here. I’m in charge and you and your siblings are gonna learn that one way or another here. This is not gonna happen again. Ever.”
She tipped her head back just a little bit so she could look down her nose at me.
“Ever,” I repeated. “You dumb kids need to learn who’s in charge here and so help me if you don’t get a clue here soon, there is going to be pain. Got it?”
I could see her gaze go to the bruises and cuts covering my face at the point about “pain”.
She crossed her arms with a polished “who cares” air about her and turned to look out the window.
4:30 am read the clock.
If I was lucky, I was getting two hours sleep here.
“Sweet mother of . . .” I bit down on my tongue and reefed on the steering wheel to get the car turned around back towards the house.
One bad night. Just one bad night. Getting over the bumps. The rest of the few days I had to watch these kids should be a piece of cake. At least they’d better be.
We got back to the house. I got Charley to bed. I went to the kitchen and threw together what I could beforehand for the kids’ lunch. Mostly just like . . . salad in a bag. Vegetarian people could last on salad, they’d be fine.
I set the four salad bags out on the counter and pulled out a box of cereal so I’d have as little as possible to do in the morning. I fumbled to set the alarm on my phone, turning the ringer up as loud as possible.
My bed on the couch had never felt so soft as I flopped down onto it, dropping my phone down next to me. I let my eyes fall shut, blowing out my breath.
Now. I could finally get a little bit of sleep . . .
The second my eyes were closed, Back in Black started blasting out of my phone and there were little hands poking at my stomach and tapping at my head to wake me up.
“Uncle Micah! Uncle Micah, wake up! Your song is playing again!”
It was almost five in the morning, what was she doing? And who would be calling me at . . .?
I hauled my eyes back open and tried to focus on the ceiling of the room.
Which was lit with early morning sunlight.
You’re freaking kidding me. That couldn’t have been . . .
I shoved Tiny’s hands away, ignoring her giggles as I rolled to grab my phone. Sure enough. Six fifty-two. My alarm had been going off for two minutes already and I hadn’t woken up.
I groaned, dropping my head against the couch cushion again. I needed like five energy drinks if I was gonna even make it through this morning.
Under ten minutes to get the kids out the door. Thank God I’d put together salad bags the night before.
“Is he up yet?” Penrod’s voice came from the kitchen.
“Shut up,” I groaned, forcing my feet both to the floor and shoving up off the couch. My headache hit again within two seconds of being upright. I rubbed a hand over my forehead, trying to avoid the bruises as I stumbled towards the kitchen.
Tiny scampered after me, her eyes wide. “What happened to your face? Did you roll out of bed?”
“No,” I growled back. “Rudy and his . . . stupid spaceship.” I took a quick scan of the kitchen. The kids had already eaten cereal. Good. Just get the salads in the lunchboxes and it should be okay.
I got behind the counter and started loading them up.
I got a glance at Charlotte and honestly had a moment of questioning my sanity. She didn’t look like she’d missed one minute of her usual sleep schedule. Rudy at least looked somewhat sleep deprived by the dark circles under his eyes, but he wasn’t acting like it.
Penrod looked almost frightened at my appearance. “Are you okay?”
“Aside from looking and feeling one hundred percent like crap?” I muttered. “Sure.”
Penrod plugged his ears at the word “crap”.
“Did you stay up late with Rudy and his spaceship?” asked Tiny, bouncing in her seat. “He said he got to stay up until two and mom neverlets us stay up that late.”
“He said what?” I whipped my head around to stare at Rudy, who was suddenly very interested in horking down the rest of his cereal.
So while I wasn’t here to watch, Rudy just . . .
Like I didn’t want to strangle him enough before now.
“Here comes the bus!” Tiny chirped. She grabbed her lunchbox and whirled around. “Do my hair please!”
On autopilot, I crouched down next to her, still giving Rudy a look. “Dude, we are going to have a talk later.”
About flying UFOs at midnight.
Another item for the “shouldn’t be my job” list.
I don’t even know what on earth I ended up doing with Clementine’s hair. I wasn’t even focusing on it. I just fumbled the hair around in a twist until it was off her back and tied it with a rubber band.
My headache pounded behind my eyes and I closed them for a second, rubbing a hand over my face. The sound of the kids’ sneakers hitting the tile floor sounded as they rushed past to grab their lunchboxes and head for the door.
The second they were gone I was going back to bed. For the rest of the day.
The door opened and shut and opened and shut and . . .
The sound of the last footsteps stopped next to me.
I took my hand down from my face, forcing my eyes to focus on him and pulling a smile to my face that probably looked more serial killer than nice uncle.
“Yes Penrod?” My voice cracked to sound closer to Tiny’s with the effort of sounding pleasant.
Penrod still looked worried and was silent for a second, but handed me a paper. “I forgot to give this to you yesterday. Teacher said there was a . . . a . . . PTA meeting today and she needed my mom to come.” He shuffled his feet. “I said my mom wasn’t home and she said she needed you to come then. It’s at twelve? For something with the end of the school year party?”
PTA was for soccer moms. PTA was not for babysitting teenage uncles. Especially not for ones who needed the rest of the day reserved for sleeping.
I just stared at the paper, not even reading any of the words. Just still processing that concept in my head. Trying not to rip the paper in half.
“Well . . .” Penrod grabbed his lunchbox and backed up. “I’ll see you later. Have a good day!”
I just sat there, staring at those three evil letters of PTA as the door slammed for the last time.
A good day.
Apparently good days weren’t for babysitting teenage uncles either.
Tune back in next week for PTA adventures! 😀 Should be lots of fun, right?
Comment below, and I’ll see ya next time!